Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

BOOK REVIEW / FICTION

A Fictitious Politico With Big Problems

THE WOODY by Peter Lefcourt; Simon & Schuster 316 pp., $23

October 26, 1998|JONANTHAN LEVI | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Looking for that perfect gift to celebrate Election Day? Search no further. With only a handful of shopping days remaining, Peter Lefcourt's "The Woody" makes the perfect ballot stuffer. This neon farce lights up the political spectrum to the left and the right of the primary colors.

Woodrow Wilson White, the junior senator from Vermont, is in a bind. Despite his "million dollar blue eyes" and full head of hair, his reelection is in jeopardy. Lawsuits from two wives, one of whom is carrying on an affair with a female Finnish ice skater, are only the ice cubes of his problems. The Senate Ethics Committee has opened investigations into improper campaign contributions from the government of Togo and the Vermont Maple Syrup Distributors Assn. (which controls 80% of the organized crime in the state), his former zipper problems have been de-woodied by a case of erectile dysfunction, and if that weren't enough, his dachshund has been kidnapped, and he is being sued for automobile damage by Trent Lott. Even Woody's mother is suing him for "nonpayment of air-conditioning." Lott's biblical namesake never had it so bad.

But Woody has some capable allies--a beautiful lobbyist from the National Assn. of Health Prophylaxis Industries (the condom industry), a mystic pundit who delivers campaign advice in koans ("There is no valise," "He's There") and a resourceful chief of staff named Ishmael Leibowitz, who navigates the septic leach field of Woody's disasters, steering around homespun gangsters with names like John Quincy Adams and Tom Paine and fleets of lawyers and journalists. A "closet heterosexual," Ishmael infiltrates the unofficial association of gay congressional aides, perhaps the most powerful data base in the capitol, while carrying on an affair with a woman "so white and Midwestern that Ishmael's Galician ancestors would turn over in their mass graves if they knew about her." It's a classic battle of good against evil--"classic" in the political sense of the word, with all terms defined by the latest poll.

Lefcourt approaches the task of detonating this Feydeau minefield with the appetite of a paratrooper, using cunning, coincidence and even cliche where necessary, unconcerned for his own literary safety. He twists and turns with the purple knowledge of a senior statesman and the agile enthusiasm of an intern. Political correctness, or the lack thereof, has little to do with Lefcourt's mission. "The Woody" is smart, sexy and just plain funny, and unlike the bulk of satires, it only gets funnier as election day approaches.

No roman a clef, "The Woody" is like the best farces, less interested in mocking historical figures and more keen to turn its light elsewhere. We the People are his targets. As Pogo knew, we have seen the Candidate and it is Us.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|